Naturavetal Logo

My Dog Eats Grass – What Can I Do?

Add to favourites

Grass eating in dogs is a widespread phenomenon that is probably familiar to every dog owner. Every dog eats grass - at least once in a while. But when is grass-eating a normal part of a dogs behaviour and when does it indicate deeper problems?

In this Guide, we explain the topic of "Dogs eating grass" and present possible causes.

Contact Naturavetal®

Our experts will be happy to advise you personally.

Should you have any questions on this topic, we will be happy to provide you with comprehensive advice. 

You can reach us Monday to Friday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Why does my dog eat grass? The most common reasons and causes

The fact that dogs eat grass from time to time is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Even wolves ate grass from time to time, so in effect, this behaviour is "in the dog's genes".

Many puppies have observed their mother or other adult dogs eating grass, imitate it and thus incorporate it into their own repertoire. Sometimes dogs eat grass to occupy themselves and pass the time, in other cases it serves to compensate for stress.

However, there are many other possible causes for dogs eating grass, as there is still no scientific explanation for the behaviour.

What are the reasons for why dogs eat grass? 

There are probably various factors that can cause a dog to eat grass and it may also be a combination of different factors that determine whether or not grass eating is a sign of illness. Some of the suspected causes of dogs eating grass include:

  • The dog is hungry or thirsty.
  • Grass simply tastes good to dogs.
  • He eats the grass as "self-medication" (this is not uncommon in the animal kingdom - some animals instinctively seek out special herbs or eat tree bark when they are suffering from parasites, for example).
     

Self-medication could serve various purposes:

  • The dog may want to compensate for a nutrient deficiency, such as a lack of vitamins, minerals or fibre.
  • They wish to cleanse themselves internally.
  • They feel sick and want to vomit.
  • They suffer from digestive problems and the bitter substances it contains helps them with indigestion, flatulence and other problems in the digestive tract.
  • They have swallowed a foreign body and would like to vomit it up.
     

In addition to the suspected nutritional and physiological reasons for dogs eating grass, there are also psychological causes that could trigger this undesirable behaviour. These include:

  • Diffusion - the dog eats grass because it is not allowed to show the behaviour it would actually prefer. Eating grass serves as a method of compensation.
  • Stress - the dog relieves stress by foraging for grass and chewing on grass.
  • Boredom - Eating grass can be a sign of boredom in dogs.

Can eating grass indicate gastrointestinal problems or other illnesses?

There are many possible causes of grass eating in dogs. Therefore it is not possible to say that a dog eating grass, necessarily has gastrointestinal problems or is suffering from another illness. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on when your dog eats grass, as this will help to narrow down the problem more precisely.

At the end of this article you will find a list of questions to help you discuss with your vet or veterinary practitioner. The answers to these questions may provide some initial clues as to why your dog is eating grass.

Canis Extra Mineralmoor for healthy digestion

Canis Extra Mineralmoor provides various valuable nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and zinc and contains a high proportion of humic acids. Humic acids can support the digestive tract by forming a protective film on the mucous membranes, which can then be less susceptible to irritation, e.g. from digestive juices. They are able to bind various toxins, which are then excreted via the faeces. As transporters for valuable nutrients, they are also able to promote overall feed utilisation. This can have a positive influence on the grass and dirt-eating behaviour of dogs.

Can excessive grass eating be a sign of a nutritional deficiency in dogs?

There is the assumption that dogs eat grass as "self-medication" because they want to compensate for a lack of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals or fibre.

A nutrient deficiency in dogs can be caused by various factors and does not necessarily have to be related to their food. It is possible that some foods do not provide the dog with sufficient nutrients if, for example, it is not balanced, contains inferior by-products such as claws, feathers, stalks or roots, consists mainly of grain or is a special diet food that is only to be fed for a certain period of time. It could also be possible that the food does not meet the dog's individual requirements, for example the dog is very active and sporty or it is in a convalescent phase. The dog may also have a slight intolerance to an ingredient within it‘s food resulting in constant defecation or be dependent on a special diet due to a previous illness. This often happens when, for example due to allergies, a dog can only be fed a one-sided, narrow diet, such as horse and potato over a long period of time without any additional nutrients being supplemented.

What we are finding more and more frequently in our consultations, however, is that physiological factors very often play a major role when it comes to a dog's nutrient supply. If, for example, the digestive tract is irritated by an antibiotic, pain medication, stress, etc., the digestive organs cannot work properly. Parasites also put a strain on the organism or the intestinal flora is weakened, then the nutrients from the food cannot be utilised properly and the dog may become malnourished.

As there is still no scientific explanation for grass eating in dogs, it is reasonable to suspect that, in addition to possible behavioural and physiological causes, feeding-related reasons could also play a role. If the dog is trying to compensate for a deficiency, then the grass must contain certain nutrients that the dog is trying to absorb. So what nutrients does the dog get when it eats grass and what exactly is grass?

Naturavetal® Info

What exactly does grass contain?

Botanically speaking, all plants that are commonly referred to as grasses belong to the order of sweet grasses (Poales). Grass contains water-soluble carbohydrates, i.e. sugars such as starch, sucrose or fructans (the latter are familiar to many horse owners), proteins (e.g. albumins, globulins, glutelins, prolamins), crude fibre and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulphur, molybdenum and iron. Chlorophyll, bitter substances such as coumarins and silicic acid are also generally contained.

So if the dog is trying to cover a nutrient deficiency by eating grass, then it could be that it is lacking nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulphur, molybdenum or iron. However, it is also possible that the dog likes the water-soluble carbohydrates - i.e. sugar - because our beloved dogs can also have a sweet tooth.

Naturavetal® Tip: Supplement nutrients with Canis Extra Mineralmoor

Our Canis Extra Mineralmoor naturally contains various ingredients such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum and humic acids. Humic acids can strengthen the immune system by helping to regenerate the intestinal mucous membranes and thus stabilise healthy intestinal flora. This enables the body to defend itself against bacteria, viruses and other harmful external influences.

The bitter substances it contains, such as coumarins, could also play a role. Bitter substances can support digestion in many ways, they promote the activation of the mucous membranes in the digestive system, stabilise the formation of bile and gastric juice and can also support the liver and pancreas in their tasks. (If you would like to find out more about valuable phytochemicals, take a look at our Guide article on the subject).

Naturavetal® Tip: Supplement bitter substances with Canis Extra Tausendgrün Organic Herbs for BARF

Canis Extra Tausendgrün Organic Herbs for BARF contains many valuable herbs, such as dandelion and oregano, which are known for their high content of bitter substances. Chamomile flowers, artichoke herb, nettle herb and blackcurrant round off the rich recipe. The concentrated organic herbs are real powerhouses, providing the body with valuable vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances.

The fibre within plays an important role. Dietary fibres are fibre-rich components of plants that cannot be digested directly, but serve as food for the intestinal flora. As the intestinal flora is in turn responsible for the synthesis of various substances, all of which are essential for the organism, it is all the more important that dogs consume enough fibre in their daily diet.

Naturavetal® Tip: Supplement valuable dietary fibre

Supplements rich in crude fibre such as Canis Extra Berry PowerCanis Extra Top-Fit Mix and Canis Extra Vit/Min-Variety Flakes can increase feed volume, promote intestinal peristalsis and also provide a valuable nutritional basis for the body's intestinal flora. This can not only have a positive influence on the well-known grass eating in dogs, but also on the emptying of the anal glands. If you would like to find out more about anal glands in dogs, please take a look here.

Is grass eating dangerous and at what point is the behaviour questionable?

Many dog owners find it quite pleasant if their dog can occupy itself with eating grass, for example when they meet friends on a dog walk with whom they would like to chat a little with. Many dogs reduce stress by eating grass and are generally more relaxed on a dog walk. On the surface, you might assume that you should simply let your dog eat grass because it is more comfortable than constantly calling your dog. However, the following should be noted: Regardless of whether the dog eats grass very rarely or very often, and regardless of whether it eats a little or a lot, there are risks associated with eating grass that you as a dog owner should be aware of.

Eating grass can be dangerous for your dog for various reasons

  • The grass could be contaminated with eggs from worns or other parasites such as Giardia - your dog could become infected with parasites when eating grass. (You can find out more about giardia in dogs here. You can find out more about worms in dogs here).
  • Grasses along roads, especially main roads, are exposed to many pollutants emitted by cars. These include car exhaust fumes, tiny dirt particles, for example from tyre wear, and of course oil, wiper fluid and other liquids that drip from cars and are then washed off the road into the grass verges by rainfall.
  • Grasses in city parks, allotment gardens or on agricultural land can be contaminated with fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.
  • Grasses can be sharp-edged, especially if they have been freshly mown, and there are also grasses that are naturally robust and sharp-edged. Thees pose a risk of injury for the dog if it gobbles down the grass.
  • Dogs that eat grass manically often no longer properly select which blades of grass they eat. They eat them in tufts and sometimes together with the adhering soil. However, a tuft of grass can also contain plants that are not so well tolerated by the dog or can even be poisonous.
  • If an extreme amount of grass and soil is ingested, this can put a lot of strain on the digestive tract and, in the worst case, cause an intestinal blockage. (An intestinal obstruction is a medical emergency that must be treated by a vet immediately).
  • Undigested grass residues can be excreted in the faeces, and it can happen that part of the blade of grass has already been excreted while the other part is still far in the intestine. Simply pulling out the blade of grass then harbours a high risk of injury to the intestines and anus due to the risk of cutting.

When is grass eating a cause for concern?

How much grass a dog can safely eat depends on its size and, of course, whether or not it has a sensitive stomach. You should also bear in mind that there is a risk of the dog becoming infected with parasites or ingesting other harmful substances when eating grass, even if it only eats a few blades of grass - so it is never completely safe for dogs to eat grass. Undigested grasses can become intertwined in the digestive tract and then cause an intestinal blockage.

Naturavetal® Info

Intestinal obstruction in dogs

If a dog's intestine is partially or completely blocked and food, liquids and gas can no longer pass through it normally, this is known as an intestinal obstruction. Intestinal obstructions can be caused by foreign bodies, tumours, inflammation or twisting of the intestine. The symptoms that the dog shows are very different. Initially there may be vomiting, flatulence, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, later on dehydration and apathy may occur and the dog may go into life-threatening shock. Intestinal obstruction is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary treatment.

What types of grass can my dog eat?

As a rule, dogs prefer juicy, sweet grasses, especially the tender and still young shoots. However, some dogs are so manic in their behaviour that they no longer pay attention to what types of grass and how much is consumed. These dogs ingest a lot of soil or even sharp-edged grasses and, as you have already experienced, this can be dangerous for your dog for various reasons (parasites, cuts in the mouth and digestive tract, toxins, etc.). So if you want to let your dog eat grass, you should pay attention to the environment in which your dog eats grass and how much grass is consumed.

Nevertheless, even with tender grasses, where the risk of injury is not so high, you do not know what else your dog has ingested besides the grass - because when grass is eaten, harmful substances or parasites could also be ingested.

Which other plants can be dangerous for dogs if they eat them?

There are various plants that are difficult to digest or even poisonous for dogs. These include, for example, ivy, yew, lily of the valley, boxwood, bracken and blue rain.

Special care should also be taken with mushrooms, because even if there are harmless types of mushroom, some of them are poisonous to dogs. Depending on your dog's body size, even small quantities can cause severe symptoms of poisoning. Mushrooms are in high season in autumn (although other seasons also produce certain types of mushrooms) and their mostly pleasant smell makes them interesting for dogs. Mushrooms grow not only in forests, but also in meadows, hidden among various grasses, it is possible that dogs eagerly eating grass, could accidentally gobble up a mushroom that could quite possibly be poisonous to them.

In our Guide "At a glance: Toxic foods for dogs" you can find out more about toxic foods for dogs.

What influence does diet play on grass eating in dogs?

Dog Food should always be natural and easily digestible. The manufacturer should declare it openly and not use inferior animal or vegetable by-products such as claws, feather meal, leaves or stalks, nor synthetic vitamins or preservatives, but only high-quality ingredients, as is the case with our Canis Plus® products. Synthetic additives such as preservatives or vitamins, inferior by-products such as claws or leaves, hidden sugars and an overall composition of the food that is not adapted to the dog's needs put a strain on the animal's metabolism, can irritate the digestive tract and overall contribute to the body becoming unbalanced, which can make the dog more susceptible to eating grass.

However, due to the variety of possible causes of grass eating in dogs, there are many different approaches that you can take to stop your dog from eating too much grass. Our experience shows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, before you reach for medication, we recommend that you first have a diagnosis made by your vet or veterinary practitioner. In the meantime, you can take a closer look at your dog's diet and try natural approaches using Canis Extra Mineralmoor or Canis Extra Tausendgrün Organic Herbs for BARF if you want to wean your dog off grass. Sometimes you simply have to try out different approaches and combine them until you find the optimum solution for your dog, and that starts with their feeding.

While one dog does better on a cold-pressed Dry Food, another dog needs a wet food, and here too there are differences that can influence a dog's eating behaviour. The normally active dog should be fed a diet with approx. 70% meat and 30% vegetable supplements, as is the case with our Canis Plus® Complete Tinned Meals. However, a meat content of 70% may be too high for sensitive or older dogs. These can react with gastrointestinal irritation, which can be accompanied by grass eating. In such cases, you can either adapt our Canis Plus® Complete Tinned Meals by adding our Canis Extra Top-Fit-Mix or Vit/Min Variety Flakes for a lower meat content, or you can switch directly to our Canis Plus® Pure Meat Variations and feed these with our flakes and a natural source of calcium and oil.

Naturavetal® Tip: Grazing and BARF

Feeding raw meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, rounded off with valuable herbs and other natural supplements, is a wonderful form of species-appropriate dog feeding. However, we notice time and again that sensitive dogs develop problems with the utilisation of raw meat as soon as the meat content of BARF is set too high over a longer period of time. Or when dogs slowly get older, they then start to eat grass in larger amounts. In these cases, we advise the following:

  • Reduce the amount of meat.
  • Switch to more easily digestible meat sources such as chicken, lamb or fish.
  • Switch to cooked meat, e.g. our Meat Pots or Meat Rolls.
  • Supplement with our Canis Extra Mineralmoor for 2-4 weeks to support your dog's digestive system.

What can I do if my dog eats grass and then vomits?

Some dogs eat grass and then vomit it up again. If this happens from time to time, your dog simply vomits grass with a bit of liquid and their general condition is good, then you don't need to worry at first. However, if this happens regularly or your dog is constantly vomiting up their food as well as the grass, then you should consult a vet or veterinary practitioner.

If you have observed your dog eating grass and their general condition deteriorates (immediately or with a time delay) and they start vomiting regularly, you should consult a vet immediately. Your dog may have ingested a foreign body or poison in addition to the grass.

Can I train my dog to stop eating grass?

If you are looking for alternatives to grass eating for dogs, then you should observe your dog in order to be able to assess why and when your dog eats grass. If you notice that your dog eats a lot of grass when they are stressed, bored or frustrated, then your dog's grass eating is behavioural. You can now try to prevent your dog from getting into situations that puts stress on them, try to keep stressful situations out of their way or, if necessary with the help of a dog trainer, you can start training your dog to show them alternative behaviours. For example, they can learn to seek contact with you first before they start eating masses of grass out of sheer stress or frustration.

Naturavetal® Tip: Behaviour and feeding

Feeding has an enormous influence on both the physical and mental health of your dog. Of course, the type of upbringing and the living environment also play a major role and other things can also lead to behavioural problems in dogs. These range from genetics and environmental factors to the side effects of medication. All these factors can be negatively or positively influenced by feeding. As dog owners, we can't keep everything potentially harmful away from our dogs - but we can influence their feeding every day by avoiding unnecessary chemicals and feeding naturally and healthily at the same time. This can have a positive influence on a dogs behaviour. If you would like to find out more about the connection between nutrition and behaviour in dogs, take a look at our Guide.

Tracking down grass eating in dogs - observe your dog closely!

Here you will find a list of questions to help you during your consultation with your vet or veterinary practitioner.

The answers to these questions can help your vet or veterinary practitioner to assess more accurately whether your dog's grass eating is normal behaviour or whether there may be more to it.

There is no substitute for a visit to the vet, especially if your dog suddenly changes its behaviour or is unwell.

Has your dog changed its behaviour?

  • My dog actually eats very little grass and suddenly behaves like a grazing cow.
  • My dog has been eating grass since they have had a gastrointestinal infection or was given a medication/worming treatment.
  • My dog has been eating grass since she came into heat.
  • My male dog has been eating grass since bitches have been in heat in the neighbourhood.

 

In which situations does your dog eat grass?

  • When I meet friends for a chat, make a phone call or am otherwise distracted on my dog walk.
  • After I have reprimanded him.
  • When he is stressed.

 

When does your dog eat grass?

  • At every opportunity.
  • Immediately after getting up.
  • After feeding.
  • Only at a certain time of year.
  • Only at a certain time of day.
  • Only on warm days or after it has been particularly active.

 

What grass does your dog eat?

  • Only when freshly mown.
  • Only the tips of the grass shoots.
  • He eats whole tufts of grass.
  • He eats grass and soil.
  • He eats every kind of grass.
  • He only eats certain types of grass.

 

How does your dog eat grass?

  • He chews grass a few times and then spits it out.
  • He chews the grass and then swallows it.
  • He devours the grass without having first chewed it properly.

Further information and frequently asked questions (FAQ) about grass eating in dogs

Is it normal for dogs to eat grass?

It's normal for dogs to eat grass from time to time. But if your dog eats grass from time to time and then behaves like a grazing cow, then you should take note, as this behaviour is not normal. Even if your dog rarely nibbles on grass and then suddenly starts eating a lot of grass - in other words, their normal behaviour has changed- you should investigate more closely.

Can eating grass in dogs be a sign of illness?

It has not yet been scientifically clarified why dogs eat grass at all. The only thing that is clear is that not all grass eating is necessarily a sign of physical illness in your dog. There are various hypotheses that try to explain grass eating in dogs, but it is very difficult to research this behaviour precisely. Every dog is unique. The genetic basis, physical requirements, character, age, sex and living conditions can vary greatly from dog to dog - but all these factors must be taken into account if you want to explain more precisely why dogs eat grass. It is therefore not possible to make a generalised statement that a grass-eating dog must be physically ill.

You know your dog the best and can judge exactly when their behaviour changes. If they normally nibble on grass 2-3 times a week and then suddenly turns into a grazing cow, then you should be alert and consult a vet or veterinary practitioner to clarify whether your dog might be ill.

You can find out more about this topic in our Guide "My dog is unwell - when should I go to the vet?".

Can eating grass be a sign of stress or anxiety in dogs?

If your dog is suffering from stress or anxiety, then this may be responsible for your dog eating grass, along with other factors. Many dogs relieve stress by chewing, and it is also a good distraction if the dog can occupy itself with eating grass. Prolonged stress can also have negative effects on the entire body and, as with us humans, can also "hit the stomach" - eating grass is then no longer just a way of compensating for stress, it can also be an indication of a problem in the digestive tract that has been triggered by stress.

Behaviour and feeding can have a massive influence on each other - you can find out more in our Guide article "The connection between nutrition and behaviour in dogs".

Can eating grass be a sign of boredom in dogs?

Boredom can also be responsible for dogs eating grass. Many dogs only eat grass when the owner is distracted, for example because they are chatting or on the phone.

Does eating grass affect my dog's digestion?

Yes, eating grass can affect your dog's digestion in many ways, as your dog can become infected with parasites or even injure themselves on the grass. You can find out more about this in this Guide above. Our Guide "Natural feeding for worm infestations in dogs and cats" also gives you useful tips on the subject of worm infestations in dogs and cats.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by phone. We are here to help you with comprehensive advice. You can reach us Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by phone at 020 8531 7804 or mail info@naturavetal.co.uk.

These articles might also interest you

Naturavetal® food samples

We will be happy to send you food samples and help you choose the right variety

The Naturavetal® Newsletter

In our newsletter, we inform you about innovations in natural, healthy food for dogs and cats